Cooking traditional Georgian food

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Eka putting the palamush in the serving dishes.

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Tsira, my host grandmother, was our teacher for the day. She’s a pretty great cook.

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Suze and I working on the palamush.

 

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Suze trying her hand at making khinkali.

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Tamta and Mike working on the dough for the khinkali. It is A LOT of work which is why Georgians typically eat khinkali at restaurants.

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Ready to cook (in a pot of salted boiling water).

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By the end, Suze was pretty good at this.

The last few days have seemed like a vacation relative to the rest of PST. Friday morning we had our mid-training LPI (language) test. I think it went well enough but I’ll find out where I currently stand on Tuesday. Our goal is to reach the intermediate low level by the end of training. This would mean that I can reasonably communicate my wants and needs with native speakers. Hopefully, right now I’m novice high which is one step below that goal. We’ll see.

Yesterday, our only class was a cultural class in which we learned about the long history of Georgia. The quick and dirty of it is that Georgia has always been torn between the east and the west because of its geographic location. They’ve therefore suffered many invasions from larger neighbors including the Mongols, Turks, Persians, and most recently (most of the last century and as recently as five years ago) Russia. After a brief history, we headed to my house where we were taught how to make khinkali, palamush, and a really good rice salad. Khinkali is a dumpling that usually contains a pork/beef mixture with a pretty tasty broth inside and is one of the most well known Georgian foods. Palamush is made with homemade grape juice, flour, and a little sugar. It is sort of a cross between jello and pudding. Since every Georgian family grows grapes, every family has their own house grape juice (and wine). This is a pretty common desert. It was fun to finally be in a kitchen again. I’ve missed cooking. Georgians take hospitality to the extreme and, as a სასტუმრო (guest), I’m not really allowed to do much for myself. I try but I’m continuously told to sit down. Nevermind that I am living with them for three months! I guarantee that, if someone were to stay with me for more than a week, I’d be letting them take care of themselves quite a bit. But I’m not Georgian.

Today I was able to get in the kitchen again. The strawberries are starting to come in in the yard (as are the cherries!), so Eka and I made a strawberry cake. I’m typically not a cake fan, but this was more or less a strawberry shortcake which I happen to love. And now I know how to make it from scratch. I love how Georgians cook and bake. They just throw things in knowing about how much of everything should be in. There are no measuring cups or spoons. And everything always turns out.

As we were finishing up the cake, my friends Kristen and Lady stopped by (just in time) as did our neighbors Inez and Nino. So we had a spontaneous celebration replete with numerous toasts with some sort of fruity liquor that burned all the way down, cake, and lots of laughs. This is one of my favorite things about Georgia. People just pop by and before you know it you have a party. Since my home is a female-headed household, it is often filled with neighbor women sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffe or tea, eating whatever treats are available (lately, the peanut butter that I so unwisely introduced to my host family), and chatting. I’m going to miss this a lot.

Which brings me to tomorrow. Right before lunch tomorrow, the PC staff will take us outside where there will be a giant map of Georgia drawn out on the (paved) soccer field. One at a time, we’ll each learn where we’ll be spending the next two years. I’m extremely excited about this because it is, after all, what I’m here for. I didn’t come here just to take language and technical classes everyday. I came here to live and work in a community. However, I definitely am feeling ambivalent about the whole thing. I love my host family here and it is going to be extremely sad to leave them. They are so great, in fact, that I can’t imagine how my next host family could possibly live up. Which definitely causes me some anxiety. I’m also anxious about what size of a community I’m going to be living in. My short time here has made me feel pretty strongly that I would be best off in a larger city. There are some aspects of traditional Georgian culture that are particularly oppressive if you are a woman. In the cities, these traditions aren’t typically as strong and there is more room for a woman to breath. So, tomorrow I find out whether or not I can breath (relatively) freely for the next two years or whether I live in a panopticon (apologies for the obscure Foucault reference, but it is incredibly apt here). I’ll keep you posted!

 

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A bit of travelling!

I’ve been too busy (and tired) lately to post anything. But here are a few moments from my last two weeks.

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Had to share a shot of this beautiful rose in our garden. There are many, but this was my favorite.

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On the way to our job shadowing sites (a week and a half ago), many of us travelled to Kutaisi together where we were able to enjoy a little taste of home. While not a huge fast food fan at home, having a cheeseburger and fries was pretty heavenly.Image

On our marshutka ride to our job shadowing site in Tkibuli, a gorgeous mountain town. Marshutka rides definitely deserve their own blog post and will get one soon. The theme of that blog will be near death experiences in Georgia!Image

A shot from the main street in Tkibuli.

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When we arrived it was Independence Day in Georgia. We attended a concert with lots of Georgian dancing. I’ve posted a video of the dancing on facebook. Check it out. Georgians are serious about dance. In the photo are (in order from front) my fellow trainees Tiffany and Erik, and our hosts (and current PCVs) Sarah and Drew.

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This past weekend, we were allowed to go on a cultural trip. I went to Kutaisi (Georgia’s second largest city) with my friends Kristen and Melissa. We spent the night at a hostel and had a great time being adults for 24 hours. Dinner out, lots of wine, and lots of talking. The photo above was taken from on top of the hill where the church below is located.

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This church is a major tourist attraction in Kutaisi.

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The bazaar in Kutaisi was a highlight of the trip for me. So much food available. I longed for the day when I would be able to shop at the bazaar to buy my own food. Imagine that! Control over my own diet! What a luxury!

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On Sunday, we headed to a town about a half hour outside of Kutaisi to visit Prometheus Cave which is at least 50,000 years old. The lighting was kind of strange (reminded me of a set from the original Star trek series), but the cave itself was pretty impressive. Image

 

Kristen and Melissa on the marshutka back to Kutaisi from the caves.

As always, the weeks here are packed full of events. On Friday, I have my mid-PST language assessment test to see if I am on track with the language. We’ve been told not to stress about it and you don’t need to tell me twice not to stress. On Saturday we have a picnic with a bunch of current Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs). And then on Monday, the most anticipated moment of PST arrives. We get our site assignments. On Monday, just around lunch time, I will be finding out where I will be living for the next two years and what organization I will be serving with. It’s no secret that I am hoping for a bigger city for numerous reasons, the biggest being my deep-seeded desire for a semi-anonymous life. The thought of being a celebrity in a smaller town for two years is just about the least appealing thing I can imagine. Certainly gender roles in Georgia play a big part in my reasoning as well. And then there is the access to a variety of foods. That’s pretty important. When I get my assignment, I’ll be sure to share! No matter what happens though, I’ll make the most of the experience.